A headline and graphic accompanying a story on America's middle class incorrectly stated the group's income had declined 28 percent over the past decade. Middle-class household wealth which refers to assets minus debts adjusted for inflation is what dropped 28 percent, from $129,582 in 2001 to $93,150 in 2010.
They are the protagonists of TV sitcoms, a group courted by politicians and considered the embodiment of the American way of life.
So why is the middle-class feeling so down?
Because after its "worst decade" in modern history marked by stalled wages and a steep loss of wealth, America's middle is losing some of its characteristic faith in the country's future prosperity, according to a Wednesday report.
The middle class shrank in size since 2000 and fell back in income, according to the Pew Research Center survey of middle-class adults and an analysis of government data.
"It really is a lost decade," says Hayward resident Sherry Revak, who believes her middle-class life is "very different" from what her grandparents' generation experienced.
The wealth the middle class lost over the decade amounts to a stunning 28 percent decline: Median household wealth -- assets minus debts adjusted for inflation -- was $129,582 in 2001 but slid to $93,150 in 2010.
A mid-decade peak of wealth at $152,950 makes the collapse all the more noticeable.
The 32-year-old and her husband lost their jobs in 2009 and, though the college graduates found work within a year and make well above the median, they are having trouble getting back on track.
They used up all their savings and don't have a retirement fund. They drive decade-old cars and say it hurts to pay $3,300 a month for their relatively modest South Hayward
Among Americans who see themselves as middle class, the Pew report shows 85 percent say it is more difficult now than a decade ago to maintain their standard of living.
Their increasing pessimism about their economic future comes after a decade in which Americans' mean family incomes declined for the first time since the end of World War II. Median income for a 3-person, middle-class household is $69,000, according to Pew.
But the middle-income tier -- defined as all adults with annual household incomes that are two-thirds to double the national median of $59,127 -- is the only one that also shrank in size, continuing a four-decade trend, the Pew Center said. Some became wealthy, some poor and many shifted into the "lower" ranks of the middle-class spectrum.
"The middle-class is completely being wiped out," said Leslie May, 60, who grew up in the Oakland hills and sent her daughters to private schools but now shares a home with a daughter and granddaughter and struggles to pay the bills.
Layoffs and divorce reduced her net worth, but with two master's degrees she imagined her life would be better at this stage.
She never lived extravagantly, but she was "able to go to plays, a jazz festival, things like that just for relaxation," getting occasional manicures and pedicures and taking vacations.
"When you get to the point you feel like you can't really do that anymore, you feel like you're trapped, just living paycheck to paycheck," she said. "There's a big shift. ... Now you're in the working poor."
These troubles affect political views, according to Pew's nationwide survey of more than 2,500 adults, including 1,287 who describe themselves as middle class.
Sixty-two percent of those in the middle-class believe "a lot" of the blame lies with Congress, while 54 percent say the same about banks and financial institutions, trailed by the Bush administration (44 percent), and the Obama administration (34 percent).
The Pew Research survey, conducted from July 16 to 26, finds that President Obama in somewhat better shape than Republican challenger Mitt Romney but neither has the wide support of this group, about half of the U.S. population.
Revak blames Reagan, George W. Bush and "Baby Boomers" for her generation's afflictions. May puts much of the onus on Wall Street. Sunnyvale resident Andrey Abutin blames Obama, saying he inherited a bad situation "but he didn't do much to make it any better."
"I have a decent job, make $95,000 a year; it's middle class by Silicon Valley standards," said the 28-year-old software quality assurance worker.
Abutin has "enough money for the more fun things in life," such collecting guns and crossbows and driving a Mercedes-Benz, but has many friends who are not in the same sedan.
A struggling former South Bay man tries to be optimistic.
David Earls, who moved to Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife in 2008, recently learned his job designing signs and business cards might go to someone in another country.
"My boss has already told me he can't keep me anymore," Earls said. "I'm hoping it'll get better. Obviously if there were more jobs out there it would be a lot easier."